Queen’s Peril: Padme in Disguise

When I first heard that E.K. Johnston would be following up last year’s solid Star Wars novel Queen’s Shadow with a prequel, I was very skeptical. But after reading the book, I was happily proven wrong.

Queen’s Shadow (released July 2, 2020 by Disney Lucasfilm Press) expands on the story told in Shadow while at the same time tying Padme and Naboo into the larger Star Wars narrative even better than its predecessor.

Queen’s Shadow took place after The Phantom Menace, telling the story of Padme’s transition from Queen to Senator and how vital her handmaidens were in every aspect of her life. Queen’s Peril is the story of how Padme transitioned from citizen to Queen, the first days of her working with her handmaidens and how the early days of her reign led right into the events of The Phantom Menace.

Cover of Queens Peril Cover

At its heart, this is a book about Padme and how she forms a routine and relationships with her handmaidens. While they are a bit hard to tell apart at times, they do have their individual personalities, talents and back stories. Just like in Shadow, Peril gives us a Padme more relatable than her onscreen incarnation. Padme is the idealist who wants to do what she can to make things better. She takes a situation- her security- and inventively changes it through the handmaidens to better suit her. Certain scenes, such as the first time she gathers her new team, or when they decide to buck authority for a simple night out, are very well-written and help make the galaxy far, far away feel more down to earth.

However, the novel is not just about Padme. Nearly every character from the Phantom Menace makes an appearance at one point or another, with many given weighty moments. This book made me want to watch The Phantom Menace again. The moments relate not just to the first Star Wars episode, but provide insight into other events throughout the saga (however, one of Jar Jar’s interests comes off as totally out of left field).

The book is an entertaining, quick read. However, there are some times, particularly with the character asides, where the pacing feels off. There was a concept or two (notably the idea that very few people know of the Queen’s true identity- based on my understanding, the candidates for Queen take a pseudonym when they run for office and don’t give it up) that went over my head. And if you haven’t read other Star Wars books, some references might not make a ton of sense. But none of this detracts from the whole reading experience.

Queen’s Peril is out this week. If you want to explore the state of the Star Wars galaxy right before the movie saga begins, these pages are definitely worth turning.

The Force is With JJ

I’ve been a fan of a number of JJ Abrams’ projects for a while.

Alias was an incredible TV show. Lost was one of my favorite shows ever. And I thought the Star Trek movie he directed was great.

But still, I had my issues with him. He left Alias in the middle of its third season and Lost right after shooting the pilot episode (this was a bigger problem for Alias than it was for Lost). And while the Star Trek movie was very entertaining, story-wise, it was a lot like the original Star Wars.

So a few months ago, when it was announced that Abrams would direct Star Wars Episode VII, I thought he was a decent pick. He’s a Star Wars fan and loves the material, but I’ve had some misgivings about his involvement in his other projects.

But after reading part of an interview JJ did with Empire Magazine, I think that he’s the absolute best pick. In describing how he, who was not a Star Trek fan, made two movies for some of the world’s most discerning fans, JJ said he’s taking a similar approach to Star Wars:  “I feel like I can identify a hunger for what I would want to see again and that is an incredibly exciting place to begin a project.”

As a fan, he’s absolutely right.

I [Surprisingly Don’t] Have a Bad Feeling About This

Disney owns a large part of my childhood.

Growing up, I read and collected comic books and was loyal to the Marvel line. A few years ago, Disney bought Marvel.

I was also a Star Wars fan. I was into Star Wars when it seemed like no one else was and all we’d have is three movies in a galaxy far, far away. Well, today Star Wars is pretty popular, with three more movies and a lifetime’s worth of extended universe media. Oh, and a new owner. Today, Disney bought Lucasfilm from George Lucas for $4 billion.

Disney isn’t buying Lucasfilm to just hold on to the intellectual property. They’re planning on making some serious money, starting with some new Star Wars movies. From the official release:

In 2015, we’re planning to release Star Wars Episode 7 – the first feature film under the “Disney-Lucasfilm” brand. That will be followed by Episodes 8 and 9 – and our long term plan is to release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years. We’re very happy that George Lucas will be creative consultant on our new Star Wars films…

The first I heard of today’s news, I didn’t know about Episode 7. My reaction was negative. This looked like George Lucas was selling out.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this is a good thing. The truth is, George sold out when he signed on with Fox to make Star Wars back in the 70s. Star Wars was a branded commodity even then, and the money it made helped ensure more entries in the franchise. I had some issues with the prequels, but overall, I enjoyed them.

Sure, Disney will Disney-fy the Star Wars franchise. But that’s nothing different from what George Lucas has been doing with Star Wars over the past two decades.

As for the future movies (and I can’t tell whether the Disney release means the saga will end with 9, or whether there will be more after that), if I’m ever worried about the story being diluted, I always have my copies of the original three episodes. Additionally, according to reports, George has been working on these new movies over the past few months (and won’t be doing any writing or directing). Additionally, Disney has made some quality movies based off its newly-acquired Marvel properties over the past few years while respecting the source material. Sure, there will be a lot more Star Wars material for kids (and that’s who the saga is aimed at), but as for the movies, with the Disney/Marvel track record, there’s nothing to be worried about.

I’m excited about this, and the biggest reason I’m excited really has nothing to do with the quality of the movies. I saw all the original trilogy in the theaters, first run with my father (well, technically, we saw the Empire Strikes Back as part of a double feature the month before Jedi came out). And I still remember that. I can say that I’ll get to take my kids to see new Star Wars movies in the theater in a few years. That’s so cool.

And for that reason alone, as a member of the Star Wars fan universe, I for one welcome our new corporate overlords.

That One With The Ice Planet, The Green Muppet and Lobot

I didn’t realize this earlier (if I had, this entry would have been posted yesterday, instead of today), but yesterday, May 21, 2010 was the 30th anniversary of the release of The Empire Strikes Back.

Now I feel old.

I was born in ’77, the year Star Wars came out.  I don’t have exact memories, but I have flashes of memories of seeing Star Wars in the theaters (and back then, it was in the theaters for years, not weeks like the movies of today) a few different times.  I was hugely into Star Wars as a kid.  But for some reason it took me a while to see Empire.  But unlike with Episode IV, I do remember the first time I saw Empire.

It was actually a few years after it came out- sometime in April or May of ’83, right before Return of the Jedi (which I saw on its opening night in a drive in, but that’s another story).  In that spring of ’83, I was five and after seeing several commercials for Jedi, my father knew that I needed to see Empire before seeing Jedi.

Or else I would have been spoiled big-time.

So King Classic found a theater somewhere in North Jersey that was having a double feature of Star Wars and Empire back to back.  And it was on a Friday.  So my father took me out of kindergarten that day, sat through Star Wars for yet another time with me and then also sat through Empire with me.

As a five-year-old, the movie blew my mind.  And it still continues to do so, probably because I gotten it more as I’ve aged.  I have to say that Star Wars and Empire are tied for first on my favorite movie list (followed closely by UHF), but I do have a better story for the first time I saw Empire.  And maybe because I saw it two years after it came out, I shouldn’t feel so old.